Bundelkhand Harit Kisan Mandal:
A Way Ahead for Climate-Resilient Growth



In India, almost 52 per cent of the labour force is employed in the agricultural sector, yet the sector contribution to the national GDP is only 17 per cent. This discrepancy is on account of a neglected policy for agriculture and farming communities continue to suffer due to lack of agricultural modernisation, ecological degradation and rural indebtedness. Farmer suicides and food prices have been on the rise in India since the last few years. The condition of farmers in the semi-arid region of Bundelkhand in Central India is deplorable. There have been around 5000 farmer suicides in this ravine rich and dacoit­infested region in the last five years. The need for developing the agriculture sector cannot be ignored as it is the primary source of livelihood in the region. The low levels of awareness, accessibility and policy neglect have a catastrophic impact on the lives of farmers in the region. The current practices are resource-inefficient, obsolete and poor in quality. Climate change is another factor to be considered in the region. There are many socio-economic repercussions of global warming induced climate change on agriculture. Agriculture is not only a victim of climate change but also a significant cause of climate change. A necessary prelude to achieving food security is that farming communities must adopt practices and techniques that are resilient to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Faced with the phenomena of low risk awareness and little capacity in communities to cope with climate uncertainties, the Development Alternatives Group aims to tackle the complexity of bringing about behavioural change in rural communities in this region. The group is encouraging the adoption of climate change resilient farming for rural communities. DA has facilitated the development of the ‘Bundelkhand Harit Kisan Mandal (BHKM)’- a farmers’ federation that provides services and inputs right at the doorstep of the farmers.

Bundelkhand Harit Kisan Mandal

The Sustainable Civil Society Initiative (SCSI) Project of Development Alternatives (supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation) aimed to improve the eco-security of rural communities by supporting and facilitating institutional mechanisms that enhance the capacities of these communities to adapt to climate variability. Under this project, DA facilitated the development of Farmers’ Adaptation Clusters based on low-carbon and resource-efficient agricultural practices. Under this initiative, resource-efficient farming practices were encouraged by means of demonstration with intervention to approximately 300 farmers. The various practices included drip / sprinkler-based irrigation, line sowing, raised bed techniques, seed treatment, shade net, improved seeds, breeder seeds, agro-forestry and agriculture-horticulture models. The SCSI project helped improve farm yield and productivity for farmers over a period of three years. The Farmers’ Adaptation Cluster was strengthened to form the Bundelkhand Harit Kisan Mandal that has registered 1000 members till date.

Farmers in Bundelkhand have been practicing traditional methods of cultivation that are inappropriate in the current environment and economic context. Furthermore, as government efforts remain disintegrated, they are unable to access quality inputs and thus suffer. They also rely on market forces and depend on them for decision making leading to poor economic choices. Recognising the needs of the farming community in the region and learning from the success of the Farmers’ Adaptation Cluster in the SCSI initiative, the cluster has been strengthened to form the ‘Bundelkhand Harit Kisan Mandal’. Still in the initial stages of its development phase, the federation makes available doorstep services in the form of information, inputs and agri-services for resource efficient agriculture for its members. All farmers have to pay a fee to register as members in the federation. All information is discussed and shared among its members. Several knowledge resource agencies such as Indian Grassland and Fodder Institute and Indian Agriculture Research Institute are associated with the BHKM. The services are all fee based. The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development is also supporting this endeavour by integrating the member farmers into its Farmers’ Club Programme. This institutionalisation has helped farmers gather information about how to access more services and inputs through reliable sources. The Bundelkhand Harit Kisan Mandal also helps its members establish linkages with the farm input supply and service providers, technology providers, extension agencies and financial institutions. Farmers are also provided with breeder seeds, which helps them get a better price for the crop and extends the coverage of good quality seed at multiple times.

Looking Ahead

Agriculture has failed to receive the attention it deserves in the climate-change policy arena. For example, there is no ‘work programme’ for agriculture as there exists for various other issues, under the United Nations Framework Convention. Attention must be drawn to this domain, to this sector, if we aspire to achieve food and economic security. This must be done at the global, national and the local levels.

Development Alternatives will continue to support initiatives to improve the lives of farmers and encourage adaptation. This new initiative is demonstrating success as more and more farmers are keen to access the services and are able to understand the need to adapt to climate change. The ability to achieve development outcomes through institution-alisation is also showcased. This effort is expected to translate into higher economic, environmental and social returns. q

Shaliendra Nath Pandey

Sonal Kulshreshtha


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